Paris is fantastically easy to get around by public transport or on foot, but you may well want to hire a car to explore some of the sights in the surrounding Ile-de-France, such as the châteaux at Versailles, Fontainebleau and Chantilly, in Normandy, where attractions include Monet’s garden at Giverny and the seaside at Dieppe and Deauville, and other nearby regions, such as the Loire Valley, Champagne and northern Burgundy.
Where to hire?
All the main international car hire companies, such as Avis, Hertz, Rentacar, Europcar and Budget, have outlets in and around the mainline train stations in the city centre, including Gare du Nord, Gare de Lyon and Gare Montparnasse, as well as at Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports out of town. Other car rental groups include Renault, which offers car hire at some of its garages, Ada, some of whose branches also have bike and motorbike rental, and InterRent.
Read the small print (some of the cheaper companies have a high insurance franchise) and note that only the largest groups allow you to pick up a car in one town and leave it in another. Drivers generally have to be 21 or over and have had a licence for at least one year; there may be a surcharge if you are under 25.
The best deals
Try to reserve ahead for the best deals or to ensure that the model you want is available — many Parisians don't have cars and they hire cars for a weekend break or during the school holidays. There are sometimes good deals if you reserve a car at the same time as train tickets through the SNCF.
The best rates can often by found through brokers and price comparison websites, see our money saving guide to for advice.
Driving in Paris itself is not as hair-raising as it looks – your biggest problem is often likely to be finding a parking space – but beware that the huge junction around the Arc de Triomphe (Etoile) still has the priorité à droite system, which means that cars arriving from the right have the right of way and will constantly try to take advantage of those already on the roundabout.